CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — While most Soldiers had Labor Day off, Sgt. Jeremy Paz-Rivera put in some work on the baseball field here—and had fun while doing it.
On Sept. 6, 2021, the information technology specialist, currently deployed here with the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)—the unit currently serving as 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s operational command post—was crowned the Camp Arifjan Softball Home Run Derby King.
Paz-Rivera, 28, has spent close to 20 years playing baseball. As a child growing up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, he said it was instilled in Paz-Rivera that baseball was his ticket to making it in the world.
He said his parents, like many Puerto Rican parents, correlated baseball with success, so he was brought up on the field knowing baseball was his way out.
As a kid, Paz-Rivera looked up to Puerto Rican native and Major League Baseball All-Star Carlos Beltran and tried to mimic “his energy he brought to the game.” Paz-Rivera praised Beltran for the energy he brought, and said he “was having fun while doing what he loved.”
The Soldier went on to play in Puerto Rico’s equivalent of Little League Baseball where he worked hard to become better. He said his hard work paid off, as in high school he became the team captain of his baseball team.
Ultimately, Paz-Rivera’s skill at playing baseball earned him a scholarship that paid for his college studies at the University of Puerto Rico. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in geographic information systems, he was elected as the university’s baseball team captain his last two years of his undergrad studies.
Paz-Rivera also played for the Puerto Rico’s national team for two years in 2014. During his stint with the team, Paz-Rivera helped the team bring home the big prize, a national championship.
After college, the Soldier played in Puerto Rico’s minor leagues, playing Class-A for two years. As he put in more work, and got better, Paz-Rivera said he made it to Double-A, where he played one season before his baseball career was put on hold due to Hurricane Maria. The Soldier said the hurricane ravaged the whole island, leaving the majority of his homeland without power.
Paz-Rivera joined the military in 2018 and currently serves as the executive communications noncommissioned officer for the 3rd ESC commanding general and the general’s staff. He is responsible for ensuring their communication equipment functions correctly at all times.
During the recent home run competition, Paz-Rivera said he was just having fun while trying to hit each successive pitch further. He said thinking that way helped him beat out more than 40 players for the title while hitting the tournament record of 19 total home runs.
After the first round of three homeruns, Paz-Rivera said he knew he had to become more confident and hit more. He credits solid hitting to more than just keeping your eye on the ball.
When he is at the plate or on defense, just being on the field feels like home, he said.
What started out as a game to play to reach success turned into a game of true passion, a passion he carries with him whenever he plays, he said.
And at no time is the passion greater than when he locks on the ball and swings for the fences, he said.
“It is everything you do from turning at your hips to the grip on the bat, and even the way you position your shoulders."